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READALICIOUS! Books for Tweens

The Clockwork Three, by Matthew J. Kirby

Wow! Wow! Wow! This is the debut novel of Matthew Kirby and Wow! (I say again) it is terrific. It reminds me of so many stories, and yet the plot is unique. (My sister Lorraine passed along an ARC of Kirby's next book, Icefall, which I like even more; review coming soon.)

Three characters, Giuseppe, Hannah, and Frederick all live in a bustling, late-1800s port city bordered by McCauley Park, an area that has never been developed. Parts of the park are so wild that cougars still live there.

Each of the three characters needs something, and they can't achieve their goals without helping each other. Giuseppe (joo-SEP-ee) is a street musician who longs to return home to Italy. Fredrick is an apprentice clockmaker who wants to make journeyman (a step above apprentice) by creating the most amazing clockwork man (a type of automaton) the world has seen. Hannah has had to quit school to support her family as a maid in a fancy hotel. Her father is seriously ill, and she desperately needs money for the medicine to help him.

I made strong connections with two other stories as I read THE CLOCKWORK THREE. First, it reminded me of the classic The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum in that the characters band together to help each other achieve individual goals. As with Dorothy and friends, the journey takes the trio of characters into dangerous situations and on perilous adventures. I don't want to give too much away, but at one point they break into a museum to steal a head, and flee through the city from two bone-breaking thugs. Exciting stuff!

The second story is The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke, a terrific fantasy book about a group of orphaned children who make a living in Venice, Italy, as street thieves. Two of the clockwork three are orphans, and they also must roam the streets of a big city to stay alive. And boy, do these orphans know their city! They make their way through back alleys, the crowded loading docks, tenement slums, secret passages, and cemeteries.

Matthew Kirby introduces each character in separate chapters, and then slowly weaves their lives together in seemingly random encounters. By the turning point of the story, I found myself rooting like a cheerleader for the clockwork three. This is one stick-to-your-ribs story, and I won’t forget it for a long time. Wow! (Again.)

I’m curious to know, what stories or characters seem to stick with you? Do any characters seem like friends? Is there a setting in a book that you imagine visiting? Let me know!

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